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By Henry Roy

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  
Philippians 4:13

Growing up in the 70’s and being a fan of the Big, Bad Boston Bruins has lent itself to many well-etched hockey memories.  There were the glorious memories of Bobby Orr and his amazing exploits in spite of an injury shortened career.  Bobby was an elegant skater who also possessed amazing skill and his attributes as a player re-defined the defenseman position.  His ability to skate, distribute, score and, of course defend more than effectively, allowed Bobby to exude a mixture of grace and grit that arguably have never been seen to the same magnitude by any player since.

Other memories espoused moments that lacked grace and elegance of any measure and permeated a measure of astonishment predicated on unbridled anger and actions ensuing from the emotions.  They included an incident in 1979 that saw several Bruins players climb into the stands to fight unruly NY Rangers fans, an epic battle royale that took place at the Montreal Forum with the archrival Canadiens, and finally the many donnybrooks with the Bobbie Clark led Philadelphia Flyers.  It certainly was a different time and in many respects a much different game than what we watch and enjoy today.

The previous generations’ NHL brought us a brand of hockey that embraced toughness, grit, clutching and grabbing, hooking and a lot less turning of the cheek.  By contrast, today’s NHL brings us an emphasis on speed, skating and skill that far surpasses that of prior generations.  That being said, as an attentive spectator to the game, I also see a common trait that binds all generations of top level hockey players together.  That common thread is the measure of fortitude that is a pre-requisite to play the game at the highest levels.  Fortitude can be used broadly and is synonymous with traits such as courage, bravery, endurance, resilience, moral fiber, strength of mind, strength of character, and of course grit.  Yesteryear’s elite player and today’s elite player possess(ed) elements of fortitude that saw them thru to success.

The apostle Paul, who was the central inspired writer of the New Testament and responsible for the majority of canon, was not a hockey player, but often utilized athletic metaphors to deliver his messages and drive home points to his audience about the Christian life. (I Corinthians 9:24-25).  Paul’s life demonstrated maximum fortitude.  He was in and out of prison (Acts 16:37), often not knowing where his next meal would come, moving from city to city and home to home trusting God to provide him the way to deliver the message of hope in the face of all the difficulties.  However, Paul did not find the strength to be courageous, mentally tough, and undeterred all on his own.  He acknowledged Jesus Christ as the source of his personal strength at every turn. (Philippians 4:13) Jesus was the one true source of Paul’s fortitude.

Our hockey and sports culture today certainly embraces the characteristics of fortitude in its players, but unlike Paul, often refuses to understand or acknowledge the source of those characteristics.   Paul was very clear in that he counted all as loss, even his own personal gain, to know and glorify Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8).  This is very much counter-cultural.  The majority of professional athletes, past and present, are often quick to take credit for their own successes by the efforts of their own hand.  As a Christian athlete, it is not always an easy task to determine to be set apart, but it can be easy to set oneself apart by taking the approach Paul took in demonstrating fortitude and subsequently being willing to pass on the glory (i.e. credit) to God for any success that might come their way.  Tim Tebow is a prime example of this.  It is also a confidence builder knowing that the same Jesus who willfully went to the cross to pay the penalty for Paul’s sin also went on our behalf as well.  Those that know Jesus and acknowledge Him truly understand that it was through His ultimate display of fortitude on the cross that we can find lasting hope, confidence and strength and this is the truth binds all generations! (Colossians 2:14)

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you thought about how you can demonstrate fortitude in your personal athletic or other endeavors
  2. Are you one that is quick to take credit or offer it up in your accomplishments?
  3. Do you know and recognize the ultimate source of your strength and hope?

Further Reading

  1. I Corinthians 9:24-25

  2. Colossians 2:14

About the Author

Henry Roy grew up in Massachusetts as a sports enthusiast.  He played multiple sports during his high school and college years including football, hockey and golf.  He spent time in college as a placekicker for Florida State University, where he was first introduced to Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the FSU Chapter huddles.  He resides in Massachusetts with his wife Shelly and sons, Jackson and Harrison.  His son Jackson has been a participant with FCA Hockey Chowder Cup and Christian Cup teams the past few years.  Henry has had the privilege of coaching youth hockey teams from mites to midgets for the past decade and looks to be as involved as possible with FCA Hockey into the future.

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